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Flashback: Sugar Ray Robinson Profiled – Part 4

By John F. McKenna (McJack): Later that year Ray lost the title again, this time to the very rugged and tough Carmen Basilio in a fifteen round decision on September 23, 1957. He regained the title again with a controversial decision on March 25, 1958. This would be the 5th and last time that Robinson held the title.

Both the 1957 and 1958 fights with Basilio won the “Ring Magazine” fight of the year award. Ray would lose his title again, this time to Paul Pender in the Boston Garden on January 22, 1960. Pender defeated Robinson again in the rematch on June 10, 1960. Ray fought doggedly on until 1965, at least ten years past his prime. Just as it had become painful to watch Sugar Ray’s close friend Joe Louis in his declining years, so it was with Robinson.

Ironically Ray would solemnly declare after watching Louis’s KO loss to Rocky Marciano, that what happened to the “Brown Bomber” would never happen to him. True he had not suffered the humiliation of being stretched out across the ring apron as had happened to Louis on nationwide television. What happened to Sugar Ray was more protracted and perhaps as equally painful. To watch Sugar Ray’s decline, where he would go from town to town and fight for as little as a few hundred dollars a fight, was a difficult spectacle to watch. What made things so painful to watch was what was happening to the record that Sugar Ray had so carefully cultivated from 1940 to 1952 when he retired after the loss to Joey Maxim.

Where he had once gone 91 fights without a loss, Ray was now losing to fighters who ten years prior would not even have qualified to be one of his sparring partners. Finally in 1965 after a loss to Joey Archer, Robinson finally retired for good. That same year a ceremony to honor Sugar Ray Robinson was held in New York City at Madison Square Garden.

Two years after his retirement he was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Just like his lifetime buddy Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson had a number of quotes attributed to him. Listed below are some of his more notable quotes.

“My business is hurting people.”

“I ain’t never liked violence.”

“To be a champ you have to believe in yourself when no one else will.”

“You always say I’ll quit when I start to slide. Then one morning you wake up and realize you done slid.”
“I’ve always believed that you can think positive just as well as you can think negative.”

“Fighting to me seems barbaric. I don’t really like it. I enjoy out-thinking and out maneuvering another man, but I still don’t like to fight.”

It is always difficult to attempt to compare fighters from different generations. In addition we all have our preferences. Nationalistic and ethnic pride frequently gets in the way of rational judgment. Boxing fans from one generation or another tend to favor the fighters from the generation they grew up in. In addition, fans of today that never saw, watched the films of or studied the fighters from the past tend to be dismissive of the old time fighters, thinking that it would be impossible for them to compete against modern fighters. To help make it easier to compare fighters from different generations, several years ago I devised for my own use a rating system. There are ten categories, with each category being measured on a “0” to “10” rating. The categories are as follows:

(1)Foot Work, (2) Speed, (3) KO Power, (4) Left Jab, (5) Killer Instinct, (6) Ability to take a punch, (7) Courage, (8) Recuperative Power, (9) Willingness to take on all competition, (10) Ring Generalship

The reason I included the Left Jab in the list is because of its offensive and defensive importance. Using the above rating system as a basis to compare fighters, it is easy to see why so many boxing historians, writers and fans choose Sugar Ray Robinson as their pick to be the greatest fighter of all time. In my rating he scored a ten in all ten categories. No other fighter that I have personally rated comes close.

We may never again see the likes of Sugar Ray Robinson. He had the complete package of physical skills and mental toughness that made him a great fighter.

He is the yardstick by which all other great fighters are measured.

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